What is a dream feed?
Dream feeding means picking your sleeping baby up and offering a feed before you go to bed for the night. This means that you are feeding your baby while they are in fact asleep. How is that possible, you ask? Simply rub the bottle teat or nipple against your baby’s top lip and your baby will instinctively latch on. When your baby is done, simply pop them back in their bassinet/cot and hope for a night of uninterrupted sleep.
Dream feeds work 50% of the time in my opinion, meaning they don’t work for every baby. Some babies will simply turn away their head and refuse to feed while other babies will wake up a few hours later, thus defeating the purpose of a dream feed.
When to start a dream feed
The goal of the dream feed is to teach your little one to have their one night feed before midnight so that you can get a full night’s sleep. This can work well once it is age appropriate for your little one to only have the one night feed (from around 12 weeks of age of age if weight gain is on track). So the best age to introduce a dream feed is usually between 12-16 weeks of age.
If your little one is 16 weeks old already and wakes up frequently overnight it is best to work on some self-settling strategies instead as introducing another feed is not going to help with frequent night wakings.
Another benefit to offering the night feed earlier in the night is that your baby will wake up hungry at 7 am and have a big feed, setting them up for a great day and boosting day-time calories. So in short a dream feed is a great strategy to reduce night wakings, by tanking your baby up before they wake up hungry later in the night.
What time to dream feed?
It is important to offer the dream feed in the first and deepest sleep phase which is usually from 7-11 pm. Best not to offer the feed before 10 pm as this can negatively impact the bedtime feed, causing your little one not to have a proper feed at bedtime.
When not to dream feed
As mentioned earlier if your baby turns away their head and refuses to latch then there is no point in offering a dream feed. If you can get your baby to latch on but they don’t take a full feed, it’s best to drop the dream feed as this can encourage snacking throughout the night and thus cause more frequent night wakings.
So if you offer a dream at 10 pm and your little one wakes up again at 1 am then the dream feed didn’t work so you’re better off waiting for your baby to wake up hungry and have a proper feed.
When to stop the dream feed
Once your little one hits the 6 month mark, it is best to stop the dream feed as you don’t want to risk disturbing their sleep and potentially cause further night wake ups. It is best to let them wake up naturally and offer a feed then.
Once your little one is established on solids (1-2 meals, ½ cup each), you should be able to drop the dream feed without any further night wakings, meaning that your little one should not be waking up hungry at night as the calories from this night feed have been replaced with solids during the day.
So in short if your baby is between 12 and 16 weeks of age, and you’re happy to stay up until 10 pm, give the dream feed a try. If your little one then sleeps through until morning, success! You can keep offering the dream feed. Should your baby wake up a couple of hours after the dream feed, forget about it and wait for them to wake up hungry and offer a feed then.
There are lots of other strategies to reduce wake-ups overnight as hunger is often not the only reason why your baby wakes up at night.
If you are ready for more sleep using my proven strategies, book in for a obligation-free chat here.